Queens Ledger by Benjamin Fang – With the Democratic primary four months away, Assembly candidate Melissa Sklarz is taking the time to know her would-be constituents.
The Woodside resident and longtime Democratic Party insider is challenging freshman Assemblyman Brian Barnwell in the 30th District, which includes Woodside, Maspeth and Middle Village.
The primary is set for Thursday, September 13.
In an interview last week, Sklarz said she’s been out in the neighborhood everyday for the past two months, talking to voters about the issues they care about. Among them are housing, education, immigrant rights and women’s reproductive rights.
“My door will be open and my cell phone will be available,” she said. “I want to be there and help people.”
Sklarz noted that she supports two bills that Barnwell voted against in the Assembly. One is the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which would provide insurance coverage for FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and products.
The other is the New York State Liberty Act, which would make New York a “sanctuary state,” prohibiting law enforcement and other state agencies from inquiring about a person’s immigration status.
Both pieces of legislation have passed in the Assembly, but have not been put up for a vote in the Republican-controlled State Senate.
On the issue of transportation, Sklarz said she wants to see more funding to improve public transit. The Boulevard Gardens homeowner hasn’t owned a car in three decades, she said, and mostly gets around on buses and trains.
But while Sklarz is a proponent of better public transportation, she has also learned how important cars and parking spots are to residents in areas like Maspeth and Middle Village, which lack transit options.
Although she likes the idea of bike lanes, Sklarz said she has also heard from numerous people at local town halls and civic meetings just how much they dislike the lanes.
“The beauty of this is my ability to listen and learn,” she said.
While discussing education, Sklarz criticized New York City schools broadly as “not working.” She specifically pointed at school segregation and underperforming schools as a “tragedy.”
The candidate said she wants to see smaller classrooms and higher wages for teachers.
“I want to get the money we deserve for our schools,” she said.
As she continues on the campaign trail, Sklarz said her biggest challenge will be to continue learning what it is the 125,000 people who live in the district care most about.
Her campaign will soon begin the petitioning process, collecting signatures all across the district. She will have even more opportunities to talk to voters from Woodside, Maspeth and Middle Village until the primary.
“I’m 100 percent committed to serving the district,” she said. “I think I can make a difference.”